Panbo

Garmin's wireless VHF mic, Simrad's too

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 10, 2011
Garmin_GHS_20.JPG

Anyone with a Garmin 200 or 300 series VHF will likely be pleased to learn that they can now add up to three wireless mics with full controls.  Garmin announced the GHS 20 handsets along with the GWH 20 wireless hub needed to run them last week, and the product page suggests they're nearly ready to ship.  It's all sort of sneaky -- though in a good way -- as the wireless mic possibility is not even mentioned in the VHF 200 or 300 literature and manuals.  However, these handsets are not inexpensive...

A GHS 20 and the GWH 20 hub retail together for $400, with extra handsets at $300 (with the GHS 20i "international" model $50 more).  By contrast, the wired GHS 10 remote mic -- which is otherwise very similar -- costs $200.  I'm generally a fan of the VHF 200 and GHS 10 I've been testing long term -- especially the softkey interface -- but I do find the fonts on the mic a little challenging, as I tried to picture last spring.  And it looks like anyone with a GHS 10 would have to give it up to use the wireless mics, as I think the hub uses the same port.  The bigger picture, though, is that anyone looking to Garmin for VHF -- probably because they're already buying a Garmin MFD system -- will now find quite the selection, even though the company only got started on this line in 2009.
    Garmin's wireless handsets look good -- and note that they can walky-talky with each other -- but they're not the first.  That distinction goes to Uniden, I think, and though that company seems to have low profile in marine electronics these days, the WHAMx4 mics I was fairly impressed with in 2005 are still available.  There was also the Northstar 705 that appeared in 2008, though that was just about the time that Navico seemed to lose interest in that brand.  But guess what?  The 705 and its companion 725 VHF recently reappeared, at least in part, as the new Simrad RS25 VHF and AHK05 Handset, which retail for $300 and $169 respectively.  If you want full wattage fixed VHF without a wire, it's available.

Simrad_RS25_VHF.JPG

Comments

Regarding wireless VHF handsets, there is one more. Mainly sold in Europe, Radio Ocean is part of Furuno France, and has a wireless handset for their AIS integrated RO4800 VHF.

Retailing around 160Eur (incl VAT) in Europe, makes it pretty inexpensive handset. Up to two units can be connected into one RO4800 at the same time. The D-Class VHF RO4800 retails around 395Eur (incl VAT) in Europe.

http://www.radio-ocean.com/crbst_44.html

Chris

Posted by: Chris at January 11, 2011 1:40 AM | Reply

Chris,

Do the P4800 handsets also display the AIS information from the RO4800?

Erik

Posted by: Erik in reply to Chris at January 11, 2011 3:15 AM | Reply

Erik, no I believe it does not show AIS targets, but RO4800 does have a radar type display of AIS targets.

/chris

Posted by: Chris in reply to Erik at January 11, 2011 7:27 AM | Reply

Thanks, Chris. I should also have mentioned Navicom, which may be related to Radio Ocean some how:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2010/03/navicom_rt-650_mob_doing_it_all_somewhere_else.html

Posted by: Ben in reply to Chris at January 11, 2011 7:38 AM | Reply

Ben,

My experience with wired remote microphones is that often the volume level of the speaker is not high enough to use in a noisy environment, such as a flybridge. As a result, I've had to add a remote speaker to my boat's system.

Do you find that the latest generation of remote microphones (wired or wireless) have adequate volume levels?

Raul

Posted by: Norton Rider at January 11, 2011 12:26 PM | Reply

It would be nice if I could still use my wired remote on the Garmin VHF200 and the Wireless feature. I had the Uniden 625 series w/WAM4 wireless remotes and it was great. The only reason I changed was I wanted an all NMEA2000 network. Wait a minute I have 2 VHF200's I think I'll install the wireless mikes on the stand alone radio!
Bill Lentz

Posted by: Bill Lentz at January 11, 2011 12:30 PM | Reply

I have two GHS10's coupled to the Garmin VHF 300 in the pilot house now - I find that I use the Garmin VHF 200 99 percent of the time as the interface is so much easier to use / see than the GHS10.

And for the budget, I think I would buy two Standard Horizon HX751 handhelds and get waterproof and more function / flexibility?

I do have the wireless remote for the Garmin autopilot. You cannot take that away from me - that device will stay forever.

Posted by: Cattledog at January 11, 2011 1:06 PM | Reply

Garmin support turned around my email query pretty quickly, and I was happy to learn that the software update needed to run the wireless mics can be done over NMEA 2000.

Posted by: Ben at January 11, 2011 1:49 PM | Reply

The new Simrad radio looks interesting. I find it surprising that it has a NMEA 0183 and Navbus, but no Simnet connector to receive GPS info for DSC operation. Is this a warmed over Northstar product?

Posted by: Chris Witzgall at January 12, 2011 3:58 PM | Reply

Chris, your assessment is right. The 'real' Simrad wireless remote is the WR20 that connects to standard Simrad RS8x VHF radio systems (as well as a remote control for autopilots, IS series displays and a Bluetooth handsfree audioset talking to your cell phone.)

The WR20 connects over NMEA-2000 and has been out since 2006.

Posted by: Kees in reply to Chris Witzgall at January 12, 2011 4:09 PM | Reply

Ben posted this entry on January 10 2011 and as of August 18 2011 Garmin has not come through with a GHS 20. So far, this product is vaporware and has been pushed off in thirty day increments since my order was placed. Is it possible Garmin found a problem with the GHS 20 ? In any case, it's disappointing since the wireless handheld for the VHF 200 could be such a useful tool aboard our sailboat. Wish Garmin wouldn't announce new stuff unless it's in the warehouse with UPS backed up to the loading dock. They did the same thing with their 6200 series of chartplotter - nowhere to be found! I gave up on that one.

Posted by: Richard C at August 18, 2011 7:21 AM | Reply

Sounds like Garmin has a serious problem with this finally-shipping GHS 20 wireless VHF mic:

"Ben, You won't believe this!

I have a Garmin VHF200 installed aboard Gray Eagle, our sailboat - Northport Harbor, NY. Today I received the new Garmin GHS 20 / GWH 20 bundle and installed the unit. I am aware that the VHF 200 needs a software upgrade in order to recognize the wireless GHS 20 so I downloaded the latest Garmin updates from their web site and installed through the 4212 chartplotter while all Garmin equipment was turned on and connected via N2K. I checked the software version on the VHF 200 to confirm the new version was installed and it was.

At this point I turned on the VHF 200 so I could pair the GHS 20 with it and immediately the radio started transmitting a DSC distress signal. I shut the radio down and checked over all connections and re-read the instructions. All seemed fine. Turned the radio on again thinking maybe the signal I heard on the radio was from someone else. Again, the DSC started transmitting distress. The menu on the radio was locked out so I could not cancel or alter the distress signal. In fact, if this was a real emergency I would not be able to select what kind of emergency since the menu was locked out. I shut down the radio and called the CG on my cell phone. They were about to launch on the signal and appreciated the call. Next I called Garmin Tech Support. To my complete surprise Garmin is aware that connecting a GHS 20 to a VHF 200 will transmit a DSC distress signal unless the owner has shipped the VHF 200 back to Garmin, at your own expense, to have the software replaced. When Garmin says the radio needs a software update they do not mean via their web site and an SD card. Let me be clear - the radio has to go back to Garmin at the owner expense.

How in hell can Garmin ship a product that has nothing in the instructions warning about tripping a distress alarm? And, how can they release into distribution a product requiring the end user to ship the original VHF 200 back in order to use the new product?

When I told the CG how the DSC distress signal was tripped they wanted all the information on the radio. This is going to be a nightmare for them if lots of people start installing the GHS 20 thinking a simple software update from Garmin's web site is all that's needed. No where does Garmin say the radio requires a rebuild at the factory before using the GHS 20 or you will be launching Search and Rescue up and down coastal USA. Please also note the GHS 20 has been delayed from distribution for many months now - I wonder why?

Thought you might want to know about this.

Rich Cassano

P.S.
When I arrived back at the dinghy dock there was the Huntington Harbor Master looking out at my boat with binoculars. He had heard the alarm on the VHF and was investigating. Nice to know DSC really works. Told him the GHS 20 story as well."

Posted by: Ben at September 7, 2011 4:01 PM | Reply

I got a call from Garmin today and it was refreshing to hear the head of marine sales, Greg DeVries, say that he would be as ticked off at Garmin as Rich Cassano is. Here's the story and what Garmin is doing to correct it:

Apparently while Garmin knew that its older VHF radios needed a firmware update to work with the GHS 20 wireless mics, it did not know that installing the mic on a radio that hadn't been updated would make the radio think that all its buttons were being pushed simultaneously and would therefore transmit a DSC distress call as that's the highest priority command. Garmin also "failed to communicate well" that updating one of its VHF's (or its AIS transponder) can not be done over NMEA 2000 like most all its other devices can.

Beside issuing a FAQ about this situation ( http://goo.gl/J7mFn ) the day after Rich emailed me the message above, Garmin halted shipment of the GHS 20 mics and is trying to retrieve all those in the supply chain. They will be updated with firmware that does not cause the DSC distress call if the mic is installed on a radio that hasn't been updated. They are also providing willing authorized dealers with the gadget that can update their VHF (and AIS) firmware so that many customers will not have to ship their radio to Kansas if they want to add a GHS 20.

But Garmin emphasized that there is nothing wrong with the radios themselves, just the firmware combination of the original GHS 20 mic and some older radios. In fact, they've been shipping radios for some time that work fine with the mic and are confidant that all new radios in the supply chain will work fine with it.

Altogether then it should be very hard now to buy a GHS 20 that could cause the problem Rich had, and if you do have an older Garmin VHF and want to add a GHS 20 when they become available again, you should contact customer support with your serial number to see if you need to take it somewhere for an update.

Posted by: Ben at September 15, 2011 10:09 PM | Reply

We have/had the Uniden WHAM4 remote mics with their base station.

My opinion is I would never buy them again. Hopefully the other options mentioned here are better quality. The batteries they use in the mics would not last even 6 hours when off the cradle, which makes using them and keeping them at the helm station useless. They always had a tendency to start screaming low battery as soon as you were entering a harbor where it might be needed. Perhaps if we mounted the cradle at the help station as well it might have worked better, but that sort of defeats the purpose of buying a wireless Mic system.

In 3.5 years of owning it, we changed the batteries for new 3 times, and they still never worked well. It is a nice idea, but Uniden did not execute it very well. Their customer support for marine products is also, unfortunately, some of the worst we have ever dealt with.

We removed the whole VHF and Mic system and replaced with Standard Horizon GX2100 and their wired remote Mic. Much happier. Displays AIS info and other nav info on the remote mic, full function.

Posted by: Mark Kilty at September 16, 2011 8:27 AM | Reply

This is November 30 2011 and last week I received my returned GHS 20/ GWH 20 bundle after Garmin fixed the problem that had allowed the radio to think all the buttons were pushed resulting in a DSC distress call to be transmitted. I proceeded to install the GHS/GWH 20 and made the connection to the external mic port on the back of the VHF 200. I turned on the VHF 200 to configure the pairing, but suddenly the radio shut itself off. I tried this again and the same thing happened - the VHF 200 would shut itself off. In the interest of troubleshooting I unplugged the GWH 20 cable from the radio and tried turning the VHF 200 on and all was fine.

Garmin Tech support told me there was a newer, new software update that was needed to get these two products to work together. So, after returning my VHF 200 to Garmin, at my expense, back in early September for a software upgrade to solve this very problem I had to uninstall it again and ship it back. We are now up to version 2.30. If you don't have this version showing on the startup screen of the VHF 200 you can not use the remote GHS 20 product. This time Garmin issued a UPS call tag, (Thanks, Garmin, UPS shipping is expensive).

As an early adapter of electronics and a dedicated Garmin customer I can understand the multiple software upgrades as a product matures, however, I can't understand why the VHF 200 can not be updated via the NMEA 2000 network just like all the other Garmin products get their updates. Look at the GMI 10's - they are a totally different product now then the day they were first introduced yet my two GMI 10's have not left the boat since initial installation. All the software updates that improved them was done with a computer download and SD card.

I'm looking forward to seeing the GHS 20 as a working wireless handheld to the powerful VHF 200. After all this trouble a working combination would be sweet.

Rich Cassano, S/V Gray Eagle

Posted by: Richard C in reply to Ben at November 30, 2011 1:55 PM | Reply

I looked at the Garmin SD update bundle and it specifically says (highlighted in red) that no VHF is included (although it does update the AIS 600). Odd; I wonder why.

Garmin also sells a "NMEA 2000 Network Updater", part number 010-11480-00, so that users can update their Garmin products even if they do not have a Garmin Chartplotter. They should get many NMEA 2000 points for this, even if they do keep it pretty quiet.

Posted by: norse at December 1, 2011 1:17 AM | Reply

Norse,

I was told by Garmin Support that the Garmin VHF radio's have to be sent in to Garmin in Kansas in order to get the latest software that works with the GHS 20 remote. Anyone who has already updated their Garmin VHF prior to about now will have to send in the radio again. My VHF 200 was shipped back and updated Sept 10th 2011 to version 2.20 and now needs 2.30 in order to work with the GHS 20.

Garmin says that some dealers have purchased black box devices to update radio software and do stuff like change the MMSI number. Here on Long Island, NY it would cost $150 just to have a Garmin Dealer show up at the boat and I'm sure it would be additional for them to take the time to hook up and do the VHF radio software upgrade. No one here works for free. It's cheaper to uninstall the radio yourself and ship it to Garmin then it is to call a dealer.

In my opinion, Garmin really dropped the ball on both the VHF radio's and GHS 20. For one, the radio's should have been designed so software can be updated like all the other Garmin products - via Internet download and an SD card. The GHS-20 was never tested properly before sent into distribution. I understand having start-up problems with the GHS 20, but not giving the end user the capability to make VHF software updates to correct the mismatch turns both products into a vicious cycle of expensive and time consuming trips back to Kansas.

Garmin, If I have it wrong, lets hear from you. Will everything work now with the current V2.30 software fix?

Posted by: Richard C in reply to norse at December 2, 2011 10:04 AM | Reply

Has this issue been resolved by Garmin? I would really like to upgrade one of my VHF200's with the wireless remotes. Since removing the Uniden 625 I have 3 cradles waiting for new wireless romote mikes from Garmin. I know I will need to swap the hardware but the 12VDC power is there so installing the Garmin VHF wireless mike cradles should be a snap.
Bill

Posted by: Bill Lentz at December 3, 2011 12:04 PM | Reply

Bill Lentz,

I would hold off for now until I receive my VHF 200 back from Garmin with the new V2.30 software. According to Garmin tech support, this should make the GHS 20 work with the VHF 200. Keep in mind this is the third time I'm shipping these products back to Garmin for the same problem so there is no assurance this latest patch will be the final answer.

I have to say the idea of a wireless, full powered, remote VHF is terrific. I liked the Uniden 625 I had prior to the VHF 200 but it was not the latest in a fully functional DSC radio and, in my opinion, had poor audio. Keep in mind my hearing is not the best. Garmin's VHF audio is exceptionally loud and clear.

I'll post an update here when all is working well.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 6, 2011 10:20 AM | Reply

I liked my Uniden 625C and had no problems with the wireless remotes or audio quality. I just prefer to run a primary NMEA2000 network on the boat with most devices. I am pretty sure when I got my intial VHF200 the software revision was 1.X something and 2 upgrades ago I noticed the on-line support doesn't allow upgrading the VHF200 or VHF300. However I am almost certain I was able to upgrade my VHF200 until system revision 2.0 (for the VHF200), perhaps I am wrong? Since I have a 6212 and a 4210 as my primary plotters, another manufactures Class B AIS transponder and loads of NMEA2000 Garmin devices I can not understand why the VHF radio suite can not be upgraded via the plotter's SD slot (anymore)? I think there might have been a way to alter the DSC and this was possibly a violation of US FCC law. It could be an FCC issue and not really a Garmin issue other than they are required by the FCC to upgrade the radio? I just wish Garmin would come clean on why the VHF200 radio can no longer be programmed over my NMEA2000 (primarily Garmin) network. I saw the new NMEA2000 programming adapter but found no information about the software or what products it will update or support. I suspect the VHF200/VHF300 is not supported for what I have suspect is the real issue(the FCC).
Perhaps someone else has the real skinny on this or an opinion?
Bill Lentz

Posted by: Bill Lentz at December 6, 2011 8:43 PM | Reply

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